April 24, 2003
Tube fabricators all over the country are starting to see some major benefits from new coating technology. Many coatings-both those that are time-proven and new ones just hitting the market-can provide many benefits for many tube fabrication processes, including extended tooling life, better finished parts, and less stress on machinery.
Exotic metals are being used more often, and stainless steel usage continues to rise in this industry as end users seek better-quality products to stay ahead of their competitors. Coatings have become a major player in helping tube fabricators manufacture parts from such materials. Let's talk about a few of the advantages coatings offer for tougher operations and processes.
Many of us face similar types of challenges on a daily basis. Increasing tooling life and decreasing cost seem to be two of them. Usually an experienced coatings specialist has seen the same situation, or a similar one, and can offer immediate assistance with your tooling problem. A coating specialist will ask you a few simple questions before making recommendations.
If you are thinking of using coatings for the first time, it is important to be able to explain your particular situation to a coatings specialist. Before you call him in, know your material, the problems you're having, and all of the operations that take place. A sample part is always helpful.
I've seen many instances in which coating a bend die set not only extended the life of the tooling by three to five times, but also improved product quality and consistency. Suddenly wrinkling in tight bends either decreased or was eliminated, less scrap was generated, and the bender itself operated under less stress.
The same can happen in end form operations. In one instance, simply applying the right coating to a ram form nose cleared up a ragged end on the product. This particular form was a flare operation. As the nose pulled out of the tube, it dragged along, failing to leave a smooth, clean finish. The hardness and lubricity properties of the coating took care of the ragged end.
Knowing the process and operation plays a large part in which coating you choose. For instance, rolling operations require different coatings and application methods than ram operations. The information you supply to the coater determines the hardness required, whether the tooling needs a posthardening operation, and the optimum polish.
Believe it or not, consumers expect better quality for a lower price more than ever before because they have become accustomed to technological advances. Over the past 50 years a rule of thumb has been that every time technology in a given field doubles its capability, it doubles twice as fast the next time.
I have worked with a couple of coating companies, and their products continue to improve. Using coatings can increase tooling life, decrease stress on machinery, and improve the finished products-in other words, using them can help your company keep up with advances in technology and offer your customers better-quality components at lower prices.